Barcelona face daunting task at PSG, Liverpool hope to finish job against Leipzig – Champions League in Opta numbers

By Sports Desk March 10, 2021

Last season's beaten finalists Paris Saint-Germain are red-hot favourites to advance to the Champions League quarter-finals when Barcelona visit the Parc des Princes for the second leg of their last-16 clash on Wednesday. 

Mauricio Pochettino's side hold a three-goal advantage after Kylian Mbappe's hat-trick helped them seal a stunning 4-1 win over Barca in the first leg last month.

Liverpool are in a strong position to join them in the last eight, with Jurgen Klopp's side taking on RB Leipzig at Anfield after running out 2-0 winners in the reverse fixture. 

The German club, though, might just fancy their chances of causing an upset against the Premier League champions, who have lost six of their last eight matches across all competitions. 

We used Opta numbers to preview the two clashes.

Paris Saint-Germain (4) v (1) Barcelona: Blaugrana out to make history

Barca will have to make history if they are to book the most unlikely of last-eight places, with no side ever having progressed in the competition after losing the first leg at home by a margin of three goals.

The game marks the first Champions League meeting between the sides at the Parc des Princes since February 2017, when the Ligue 1 team recorded a 4-0 victory. 

That remains PSG's biggest margin of victory in a home knockout game in the competition, while it is also Barca's joint-heaviest defeat in a knockout game away from home in the competition (also 0-4 against Liverpool in May 2019 and against Bayern in April 2013).

While the onus is on Barca to score freely, do not be surprised to see the hosts do just that themselves. They have netted at least once in each of their last 22 Champions League games at home (61 goals), in a run that dates back to December 2015. 

Spearheading their attack will be Mbappe, who will become the youngest player to reach 25 goals in the Champions League if he scores (aged 22 years and 80 days), taking the record from Lionel Messi. 

Barca talisman Messi has only ended on the losing side in four of the 75 Champions League games he has scored in. However, half of these have come against PSG – the first-leg defeat and a 3-2 loss at the Parc des Princes in September 2014.

Should Messi and his team-mates slip to defeat it will mark the first time the LaLiga giants have lost three Champions League matches in a row.

Liverpool (2) v (0) RB Leipzig: Reds have the edge over German opposition 

With a two-goal advantage from the first leg, Liverpool will expect to continue their run of never having been eliminated from a Champions League knockout tie after winning away from home in the first leg.

The game will be the 21st time the Reds have hosted German opposition across all European competitions. They are unbeaten in the previous 20 of those (16 wins, four draws), scoring 52 goals and conceding just nine.  

Central to their chances of extending that run will be two players who have enjoyed themselves in the Champions League in recent seasons. 

Since the start of the 2017-18 campaign, Roberto Firmino is one of only three players in double figures for both goals (15) and assists (11) in the competition, along with Messi and Mbappe. 

Mohamed Salah, meanwhile, is Liverpool's top scorer in the competition, netting 23 goals in 40 games for the Reds. If he scores a brace in this game, he will reach 25 goals for an English club in the second-fewest appearances, following Ruud van Nistelrooy for Manchester United (27).

If Leipzig are to have any chance of causing an upset they will need to improve dramatically on their last away clash with an English side, the Bundesliga club suffering their heaviest defeat in European competition against Manchester United at Old Trafford back in October (0-5).

Only four of their 12 wins in the Champions League have been achieved by more than a one-goal margin (33 per cent).

However, the last time they won by two or more goals in the knockout stages of the competition was against Spurs last season (3-0 in the last-16 second leg).

Related items

  • Randle rewarded with $117m extension after leading Knicks' rejuvenation Randle rewarded with $117m extension after leading Knicks' rejuvenation

    Julius Randle, the NBA's Most Improved Player, has been handed a four-year, $117million extension with the New York Knicks.

    CAA Sports, the agency which represents Randle, told ESPN of the deal on Thursday.

    Randle earned individual recognition in an outstanding 2020-21 regular season, acknowledged as the Most Improved Player and also named to the All-NBA Second Team.

    The 26-year-old averaged career-highs of 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game to lead the Knicks back to the playoffs for the first time in eight years, showing the greatest year-to-year improvement in win percentage in franchise history.

    Randle supplied 22.2 per cent of his team's points – ranking sixth in the league in that sense – as his usage rate rose to 29.3 per cent under Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau.

    His most prominent area of progress was from three-point range, up from 27.7 per cent shooting to 41.1. The Knicks were the most improved team in the NBA from deep.

    Although Randle then averaged only 18.0 points in the playoffs, with 33.3 per cent three-point shooting, as the Knicks were dumped out by the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, he was well worth a lucrative new deal.

    And in agreeing terms now, rather than at the end of his existing contract in 2022, the 6ft 8in forward has granted the Knicks greater flexibility to continue to build a team around him.

    No team in the league had more cap space heading into free agency this year than the Knicks, whose early moves saw a number of last year's key men return alongside Evan Fournier, the France international coming off a short stint with the Boston Celtics.

    Wednesday then brought news of a deal to bring in Kemba Walker, who agreed a buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Walker appears primed to start at point guard in an area the Knicks badly needed to improve, with Elfrid Payton eventually losing the faith of Thibodeau in the postseason after 13 minutes, one point and one assist.

  • Anderson swings day two in England's favour before rain brings India respite Anderson swings day two in England's favour before rain brings India respite

    Two James Anderson wickets helped England wrestle back some control on the second day of the first Test against India at Trent Bridge.

    A dismal day one batting display saw the hosts all out for 183 before India made 21 without loss in reply.

    But a productive spell either side of lunch on Thursday, led by bowling great Anderson, brought Joe Root's men back into the reckoning.

    Anderson removed Cheteshwar Pujara and old foe Virat Kohli in quick succession, although bad light and rain soon intervened and allowed India to reach the end of play on 125-4.

    The tourists had withstood early England pressure and looked on course to finish the first session still unbeaten until Ollie Robinson's short ball – the final delivery before lunch – tempted Rohit Sharma to pick out Sam Curran at the boundary.

    Anderson maintained England's momentum following the restart with two wickets in as many balls, including a popular golden duck for captain Kohli, who edged behind.

    KL Rahul reached fifty as India sought to regroup, only to then have partner Ajinkya Rahane run out by a clinical direct hit from Jonny Bairstow.

    Dom Sibley put down Rishabh Pant from a simple chance and rain fell to further frustrate a resurgent England, who returned twice – first for a single ball and then for two – before heading back to the dressing room again, with play eventually abandoned.

    A TIMELY BOWLING BOOST

    England were on course to reach the end of the morning session without reward and worse news would great supporters during the interval, with confirmation Jofra Archer will miss the rest of the year, including the Ashes tour of Australia.

    How Root could have used the paceman's inspiration as his side started to toil again, staring down the barrel of a fifth defeat in six Tests in their worst barren run since 2018.

    Robinson's much-needed breakthrough, in his second match at this level, belatedly provided cause for optimism.

    MILESTONE MADE IN STYLE

    Anderson's second wicket took him level with Anil Kumble on 619 in Tests, the third-most in history. Of those, 120 have come against India – his most against any team and the most by any player in the men's format – and six have come against Kohli, although this was the first in their rivalry since 2014.

    The wicket brought relief then for Anderson, while it was Kohli's fifth Test golden duck, of which three have come in England against England. Indeed, Stuart Broad had Kohli caught behind first ball in his previous away innings against England back in 2018.

  • Man Utd loan Pellistri to Alaves again despite positive pre-season Man Utd loan Pellistri to Alaves again despite positive pre-season

    Manchester United have allowed talented youngster Facundo Pellistri to re-join LaLiga side Deportivo Alaves on loan for the 2021-22 season.

    Pellistri, 19, joined United from Penarol in his native Uruguay last October before moving to Alaves in January for the second half of 2020-21 in search of first-team football.

    He featured 12 times in Spain's top flight, five appearances coming as a starter, with Alaves ultimately finishing 16th and avoiding relegation.

    Pellistri returned to Old Trafford for pre-season and enjoyed a fairly prominent role with many of United's attacking players yet to return from international duty.

    He scored a lovely goal that turned out to be the winner in the 2-1 friendly victory over Wayne Rooney's Derby County, before teeing up Jesse Lingard against QPR and also appearing for the best part of 30 minutes at home to Brentford.

    His performances led some fans to suggest Pellistri could be a viable option in the United first-team in 2021-22, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer always hinted another loan move was likely – with Jadon Sancho, Mason Greenwood and Amad Diallo all seemingly ahead of him in the pecking order on the right flank, a temporary departure has come to pass.

    The teenager will hope to have slightly more of an impact on the pitch at Alaves in 2021-22 than last season, however.

    While his talent on the ball was obvious, his 2.5 successful dribbles per game more than any other player in the squad between January 1 and the end of the season, creatively he struggled to be influential.

    Pellistri only averaged 0.33 chances created per 90 minutes – among the outfield Alaves players to feature for more than 20 minutes after January 1, only six players were less effective at picking out key passes.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.